By Pramod Thomas:
India is on a journey to electric transportation by 2030. Slowly but steadily, it is progressing to this goal. The recently-concluded Auto Expo 2018 in New Delhi showcased many new developments which indicate that the ‘Future is Electric.’
The Bengaluru-based Altigreen Propulsion Labs designs, develops, tests, certifies and manufactures powertrains for fully electric and hybrid vehicles across categories. The company makes powertrains that can retrofit on the running vehicles and works directly with the OEMs to make electric powertrain for the future vehicles. The powertrains are claimed to be cost-effective, robust and customized for the environmental conditions and driving behaviours commonly found in India and most of the emerging markets.
“We started working on this powertrain in 2012. We wanted to create an electric powertrain that can take us away from fossil fuel and emission and create a better automobile. Our powertrain-Hypixi- can retrofit on existing vehicles. It can convert the petrol/diesel vehicle into an electric hybrid. It improves mileage by about 25 percent and reduces emissions considerably, “Dr Amitabh Saran, CEO, Altigreen Propulsion Labs, told AutoParts Asia.
After three and half years of trials and testing, the company started selling the powertrain in July 2017. “We have B2B customers with vehicle fleets who have piloted with us such as Bhagirathi, Big Basket, Defence Services, AVIS and Coca-Cola. Some do not own their fleet. They aggregate smaller operators who own the vehicles. Under one umbrella, they bring a fleet of 10,000 vehicles. We plan to work with taxi aggregators also. Currently, there is a lot of enquiries from various state governments for multimodal solutions which include three and four-wheelers,” he said.
In October 2017, engine maker Greaves Cotton entered into a strategic partnership with Altigreen Propulsion Labs to offer a range of clean energy powertrain solutions for 3-wheelers and micro 4-wheeler commercial vehicles. Greaves engines go into 75 percent of three-wheelers in India. These new electric vehicles were launched with much fanfare at the AutoExpo 2018 in New Delhi, where one could see Altigreen-powered 3-wheelers ferrying visitors between the various halls. Commercially, these full electric vehicles are expected to be on road soon. The other OEM vehicles using Altigreen products will be on road in 2019/2020.
“The OEMs have their own testing, production integration and many other cycles. They want to make sure that there is enough charging infrastructure for an electric vehicle to operate,” Saran said.
Altigreen electric powertrain includes motors, generators, controllers, battery management system, battery pack, telematics etc. It is the only one in India which has Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) and International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT)-certified powertrain for hybridizing vehicles.
When asked about the latest slogan of ‘Future is Electric,’ Saran said that it is very clear that people are moving away from fossil fuels. “In Europe and the US, they are talking about 300 miles a day and 70 miles per hour kind of speeds. In India, we are talking about 50-100 km a day and 9-30km/hr kind of speed. The technology that we need in India is both for the environmental and economic conditions. We can’t expect that an extremely large car or hybrid or electric vehicle which was successful elsewhere will start selling huge volumes in India. Altigreen aims to provide solutions that are right-sized for India and the emerging markets,” he said
“By 2020, almost every car coming out of a factory in the US and Europe will have an electric motor inside. It will not be an electric car but will have more electrified components in it. From next year, it is most likely that every new vehicle there will be some sort of a hybrid. That is the best marriage between the billions of dollars already invested in existing fossil-fuel technologies and the entry of electrified cars. They may continue it for seven to 10 years and in the meantime charging infrastructure, with induction and solar charging, will become better and batteries become more affordable. People will naturally switch to electric vehicles for their economic benefit,” Saran said.
About the electrification of vehicles in India, he said that electric offerings should be able to match the performance of existing petrol/diesel vehicles to become viable. Continuing to market underpowered sedans, that too at high price, is not helping the cause of vehicle electrification. But in a country which sells 17 million two-wheelers & 3 million four-wheelers a year, the transition to electrification, partial or full, can happen in the smallest vehicle or the extremely higher ones like heavy commercial vehicles which have more fleet-oriented operations.
Infrastructure development, both from a technology standpoint and on the road, is very important. Electric vehicles drive with electric motors and power electronics with control software. Educational institutions should start with more focused courses on electric mobility, of all kinds. Further, a typical combustion engine has 1,800 parts whereas in an electric vehicle its only 20. Electric vehicle does not require too much of repairing as it has only a few moving parts. Skill development also has to happen for electrified mobility.
“Today Lithium-ion battery price is in lakhs. The price is for the use of a battery for five to eight years upfront. Hence the business and financing models have to change to a pay-as-you-use model. Electrification in two-wheelers, three-wheelers and buses will be on a much aggressive pace and may reach around 60 percent. For the private passenger vehicles, the penetration may be slower, reaching 35-40 percent in the coming 12-15 years,” he said.
Saran said that there has to be an environment where the customer feels comfortable with having an electric vehicle. “If I go out to another city with my electric vehicle, a service station or charging facility should be available there. Then only I will drive the vehicle without a second thought. So there has to be investment on the ecosystem.”
Altigreen Propulsion has filed nine patents in 60 countries including four granted patents in the US, and others in Philippines, Australia, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh. Using its technology platform, the company creates holistic electric mobility solutions. The company has 40 employees now. “We are always expanding. The market and the opportunities are huge, and we have to be very aggressive. We plan to recruit 150 more employees in the next 18 months. Expansion into other countries will be based on interest and distributor/dealer relationships there. We are open to have partners,” Saran said.